Across the European Union an increasing number of children are experiencing parental imprisonment and the adverse emotional, behavioural and social outcomes that it entails. Separation owing to imprisonment also places strain on parent–child relationships, with children reporting feelings of abandonment and alienation, and difficulties communicating with their imprisoned parent. This paper presents findings from interviews with a total of 135 families in the UK, Germany, Romania and Sweden. There were noticeable country differences in the practical and financial barriers to maintaining contact and the suitability of prison visiting environments. This had important implications for children’s emotional health and the extent to which contact was conducive to supporting parent–child relationships.